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Week 14 scouting report: Bears will be a challenge in potentially sloppy weather

Coming off a bye week, the Chicago Bears look to pounce on the Detroit Lions after nearly defeating them last month.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Buckle up, folks; this NFC North divisional title ride is about to get bumpy. Starting in Week 11, the Detroit Lions took on the Chicago Bears and came back down by 12 to defeat them 31-26. After the win, Detroit lost to the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving before taking a break and defeating the New Orleans Saints last week 33-28. The focus is back on the NFC North, as Detroit has to travel on the road to take on the Bears again.

With the NFC North still up for grabs, every game matters for the rest of the season. Detroit has a three-game lead over the Minnesota Vikings and the Packers for the NFC North title, and the Lions haven’t played the Vikings yet. The Bears are hanging on by a thread in the division, as a loss this week would eliminate them from winning the North, leaving them only eligible as a long-shot Wild Card team. Detroit’s magic number at clinching the NFC North is three, so if they can defeat the Bears this week, that number is down to two.

This game won’t be a walk in the park for the Lions, as the Bears almost defeated them just a few weeks ago back in Detroit. Now, this time around, the Bears might be a bigger challenge. The team isn’t as injured, quarterback Justin Fields isn’t questionable entering the week, and the game is in Chicago. Lions quarterback Jared Goff struggles in cold outdoor games, and as the time I am writing this, prepare for some snow, rain, and wind in the game, possibly making it more difficult for the Lions.

With all that said, let’s dive into the Week 14 scouting report for the Detroit Lions as they take on the Chicago Bears.

2023 Chicago Bears

2023 season thus far (4-8)

Week 1: Loss against Green Bay Packers 38-20
Week 2: Loss against Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-17
Week 3: Loss against Kansas City Chiefs 41-10
Week 4: Loss against Denver Broncos 31-28
Week 5: Win against Washington Commanders 40-20
Week 6: Loss against Minnesota Vikings 19-13
Week 7: Win against Las Vegas Raiders 30-12
Week 8: Loss against Los Angeles Chargers 30-13
Week 9: Loss against New Orleans Saints 24-17
Week 10: Win against Carolina Panthers 16-13
Week 11: Loss against Detroit Lions 31-26
Week 12: Win against Minnesota Vikings 12-10
Week 13: BYE

Stats:

  • 21st in points scored, 27th in points allowed
  • 24th in DVOA
  • 25th in offensive DVOA (25th in pass DVOA, 15th in run DVOA)
  • 20th in defensive DVOA (25th pass DVOA, 11th in run DVOA)
  • 28th in special teams

Despite these two teams playing each other just three weeks ago, a lot has stayed the same overall for the Bears. Outside of getting more healthy (more on that in a minute), the team is still the same team the Lions saw three weeks ago. The Bears struggled with ball handling against the Lions as they fumbled it twice, with the Lions recovering it once. In their game against the Vikings, Fields fumbled and lost the ball twice, and running back Roschon Johnson fumbled once, luckily recovered by the Bears.

Chicago has only played against the Vikings since the Lions game, as they had a bye week in Week 13, giving the players time to rest and allowing the team to go back to the drawing board on what needs to be different. Outside of ball-handling drills, the Bears don’t need to work on much when it comes to the ground attack and stopping the ground game. With Fields back under center, the Bears are 15th in run DVOA. Against the Vikings, the team averaged 4.2 yards per carry and finished with over 100 yards on the ground.

Their run defense is still strong as it’s 11th in run DVOA, and second in yards per carry allowed (3.4 YPC). They held the Vikings to 4.3 yards per carry but only 73 total yards on the ground. Chicago will need to rely on this the most in this game if the weather stays what the forecast shows. When there is rain and snow, football gets converted back to its old days of smash-mouth football.

Another advantage for the Bears this week is being at home. A rocking crowd playing in the cold outdoors gives them a leg up on the Lions, who play in the nice, warm stadium of Ford Field. Although you have to wonder if there will be another Lions fan takeover.

As I mentioned earlier, Goff struggles when he plays outdoors, and if snow and rain are coming down, it makes his job harder. So far this season, when Goff plays outdoors, he has a 65 percent completion percentage, 1,100 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions, and a QBR rating of 54.7. Indoors, Goff has a 69 percent completion percentage, throwing for 2,188 yards, 16 touchdowns, six interceptions, and a QBR rating of 62.03.

Injury Notes

Key players ruled out: None

Key players to monitor: CB Tyrique Stevenson (ankle), RB D’Onta Foreman (ankle)

This time, the injury report is much lighter for the Bears, as only two starters are something to watch in the game this week. Foreman got injured against the Lions and missed the game against the Vikings last week. With a week off after that, he has a good shot of suiting up this week. Stevenson also missed the Vikings game, and like Foreman, I expect him to be back as well.

Sweat continues to be a good trade for the Bears, as he has seven tackles, six QB hits, two and a half sacks, two tackles for loss, and a pass deflection in the four games he has played so far. Sweat will only get more comfortable the longer he is in the system, and after four games plus a bye week to study and learn more, he is the most dangerous player on this defense.

Biggest strength: Run defense

The Bears are tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the least amount of rushing yards allowed this season with 948, and they are in second in yards per carry with just 3.4. The Bears are also tied for third in rushing touchdowns allowed with just six.

In the previous matchup, the Lions had some success on the ground against the Bears as they had 115 yards with 5.2 per carry, along with two touchdowns. Things will be different for the Lions this time as left guard Jonah Jackson will play in this game, but center Frank Ragnow could miss the game if his knee injury against the Saints forces him to. If Ragnow misses the game, it would move guard Graham Glasgow over to center, and rookie Colby Sorsdal would take over at right guard.

Detroit would love to have its starters up against this Bears defensive front, but they didn’t last time and had some success. I will say that Ragnow being out is different compared to Jackson, and no offense to Jackson, but Ragnow is considered one of the best centers in the league; without him, the offensive line will take a step back.

Biggest weakness: Wide receiver depth

The biggest issue for the Bears offense is the need for more depth at wide receiver. D.J. Moore is a bonafide stud as the team’s number one option, but behind him, the options are bleak. Moore has 1,003 yards and six touchdowns on 70 catches this season; the next closest player on the team is tight end Cole Kmet, who has 56 catches for 482 yards and five touchdowns. Not counting Kmet, the next closest wide receiver is Darnell Mooney, who has 25 catches for 351 yards and a touchdown.

The Lions had a tough time against Moore in their last matchup as he had seven catches for 96 yards and a touchdown, but without him, the other wide receivers combined for four catches for 47 yards. All the Lions need to do is limit Moore and Kmet, and the offense is stuttering in the passing game. In the last matchup, Kmet only had three catches for 20 yards, forcing Fields to continue to look for Moore for support through the air.

Key matchup: Lions defensive line vs. Fields scramble ability

This was the main matchup to watch last time these two teams played, and it has to be the main focus again for how successful Fields was against the Lions. Fields ran for 104 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry against the Lions last time, and Detroit knows they can’t let that continue. Detroit signed defensive end Bruce Irvin since the teams played, but he is more of a pass rusher than a run stopper at the edge position.

The Lions linebackers must be on edge as possible QB spies this week. The Lions could be without starting linebacker Alex Anzalone, who missed last week’s game. On Monday, Lions head coach Dan Campbell said that Anzalone could return against the Bears, so having him back would be significant for this game. If Fields has his way with the Lions defense again, this time Detroit might not be able to come back if they are down, so it should be their number one goal to slow Fields down and force him to beat you through the cold, snowy, and rainy Chicago weather.

Vegas line for Sunday: Lions by 3

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